Chapter 24. Black Market (3)
The tables and chairs in the bar were pushed aside, creating a circular space like a makeshift arena. The three men stood smugly as the audience whispered among themselves.
“They’re so shameless.”
“He’s barely over level 10, and they want to use him to get their name out? They’re animals.”
“Well, if he ends up being weak, that’s just how things work in this world. I don’t particularly feel like helping.”
“Seo Jun-Ho’s at his peak right now. It’ll be a huge blow for him.”
“That’s exactly why they’re picking a fight. If they win, the media will go crazy.”
In fact, there were even those that were using their Vita to record them. Seeing this, the three men smiled at each other.
‘This is going perfectly as planned.’
‘What did I say? This guy’s a walking gold mine.’
‘After today, we the Gangnam Trio will be famous!’
They were confident because their levels were high.
‘Since our levels are higher, our stats will be higher too.’
‘He’s just a novice that has never fought against other people in earnest.’
The first one that stepped up was the level 22 Player. He pointed a spear at Seo Jun-Ho as he spoke. “They call us the Three Reapers of Gangnam. We wield the spear, the sword, and magic with great talent. I am the Life-Severing Spear. You should be honored.”
“…sigh.” He wasn’t the one who should be honored. He had never even heard of such a lame-sounding group. Even the onlookers looked at each other in confusion as they asked, “The Three Reapers?”
‘This will do.’
Seo Jun-Ho pulled out a small dagger from his inventory. It was small and thin, about the length of his palm. The Life-Severing Spear wrinkled his eyebrows as he watched.
“…Is that your weapon? It’s different from what I saw in the papers. Aren’t you a sword user?”
“That’s for catching cows. This…..”
“Are you gonna say it’s for catching chickens?”
Seo Jun-Ho twirled the dagger in his hands as he turned. “No, it’s for killing bugs.”
“…You bastard!” Red-faced, the Life-Severing Spear lunged without warning like a third-rate fighter.
“Oh my god!”
“What a cheat!”
The audience erupted in disapproval as they held their breath. As they did, the space between the two men shrank from 10 meters to 5. In the blink of an eye, the Life-Severing Spear’s weapon arrived in front of Seo Jun-Ho’s heart. And then—
The Life-Severing Spear rolled onto the floor, screaming in pain.
“Gah!” He had dropped his weapon and was curled up, dripping with cold sweat.
“You’re not supposed to swing a spear so obviously…..” Seo Jun-Ho spoke in a soft voice as he stood over him.
Feeling embarrassed, the Life-Severing Spear wanted to scream, but he couldn’t find the energy to do so.
“…Well. I’d say you live up to your name.”
“The bastard, he is too cocky. Well, he’s the Association’s rising star, so there’s that.”
The Life-Severing Spear’s teammates shook their heads. They still looked confident.
‘He probably thought that bastard wouldn’t be able to react at all and rushed in.’
‘His opening was too big. It’s not hard to flip him over if the opponent is waiting for it.’
They didn’t seem to think that it was a big deal.
‘This is a lot easier than I thought.’
Seo Jun-Ho stepped on the Life-Severing-whatever’s back.
“Ack! Please…it hurts!”
As soon as he cried out, his teammates’ faces fell.
“Hey, move your foot!”
“You’re still being so disrespectful to your sunbaes.”
“I was never respectful in the first place though? You said you’d teach me, right?”
As if provoked, the Life-Severing Sword drew his sword. Seo Jun-Ho suddenly recalled what the former had said earlier.
‘It was that guy. He said killing a monster and a human are fundamentally different.’
Seo Jun-Ho knew that all too well. When you fought monsters, you immediately went for the weak points but it was hard to do that with a human, especially if you were a beginner who had never killed before.
‘But he chose the wrong opponent.’
Unfortunately for the Life-Severing Sword, those words were irrelevant to him. When he was Specter, he had killed a countless number of fiends.
“No more playing around. Take out your swords, Seo Jun-Ho.”
When he held out his dagger, his opponent let out a deep sigh. “It seems that you’re underestimating the Three Reapers of Gangnam because of that guy.” He assumed that Seo Jun-Ho had chalked them up to the same level as the Life-Severing Spear.
“Don’t regret it later on.”
“Speak for yourself. Don’t make excuses when you lose.” Seo Jun-Ho responded.
Neither the Three Reapers of Gangnam nor their descendants would be able to live up to this battle. Whether he knew it or not, the Life-Severing Sword silently charged his sword with magic.
A faint, thin aura covered the sword. Seeing this, the audience exclaimed.
“Woah! He knows how to use sword ki?”
“You have to be good at magic to use that.”
“That’s amazing for his current level.”
Sword ki was a technique that overlaid the sword with magic to enhance its sharpness and durability. If you used it on a knife, it became knife ki, and if you used it on a spear, it became spear ki. Although it wasn’t a sword aura where the ki physically manifested, just being able to use sword ki was enough for you to be considered a powerful person.
‘Sword ki? Yeah right.’
Seo Jun-Ho shook his head. People who didn’t know better would be impressed, but it was a fake.
‘He probably saw it once and is trying to imitate the shape.’
There was a reason why sword ki was so impressive. With it, you could cut things that couldn’t be cut and pierce things that couldn’t be pierced. But the Life-Severing Sword’s sword ki was all for show and barely did anything.
‘The sword is probably more destructive, but its durability is decreasing at this very second.’
Seo Jun-Ho was bored by the sloppy technique, but the Life-Severing Sword took his expression differently.
“Hoo, it’s no surprise that you’d be scared after realizing how much stronger I am. But it’s too late for you.”
He slowly walked toward Seo Jun-Ho. He thought that he would be able to win if he didn’t give an opening like the Spear had done. But Seo Jun-Ho thought differently.
‘He’s messing up.’
He had hunted a lot of fiends as Specter, winning consecutive matches against those that were much stronger than the average Players. Some thought that he was able to win because of his incredible weaponry skills or because of his S-rank skills. Of course, those were part of the reason, but there was a bigger factor.
Seo Jun-Ho was good at stealing his opponents’ breaths. Experts let in and let out an equal amount of breath from the beginning of the battle. But inexperienced fighters couldn’t do that.
‘Generally, when someone untrained is caught by surprise, they take in a large breath.’
At the very moment that their lungs filled up, their bodies would get stiff. Seo Jun-Ho relished in interrupting his opponent’s breath and creating an opening.
‘Of course, it doesn’t work on people that are truly good…’
But luckily, the one in front of him wasn’t one of those people.
The onlookers were confused. They thought that Seo Jun-Ho had been cornered, but he started approaching the Sword on his own.
‘Is he giving up?’
‘It’s like a trapped mouse trying to bite a cat.’
‘Let’s keep watching for now.’
All the anticipation, concern, and confusion were directed at him. Seo Jun-Ho lowered his palm-sized dagger.
To novices, his body looked like the perfect target.
“You’re completely open!” The said novice swung his sword. But right before it could hit his shoulder, Seo Jun-Ho’s dagger met the blade.
Instead of Seo Jun-Ho’s shoulder, the sword stabbed the empty air. The Life-Severing Sword’s face darkened.
‘…He blocked ME? I guess it makes sense that the Spear lost to him.’
Seo Jun-Ho had a better eye and reaction time than he had expected. But in hindsight, this made sense because Seo Jun-Ho was being trained under the Association as their rising star, after all.
‘But you can’t make up for the difference in level, you cocky bastard.’
He tilted his wrist, showing the side of the blade. It cut forward in a straight line. If Seo Jun-Ho didn’t block or dodge it, it would cut his head clean off.
“…I think I’ve indulged you long enough. You’ve crossed the line.” Seo Jun-Ho’s eyes narrowed. He had only planned to play around a bit, but his opponent’s attack was filled with murderous intent. Seo Jun-Ho couldn’t let them go anymore.
There was a sound like water dripping from a faucet. It came from an artery of the Life-Severing Sword.
With the loud clang from the fallen sword, blood spurted from the Sword’s wrist like a fountain. Seo Jun-Ho’s dagger had cut him precisely at his artery.
“You won’t be able to hold a sword with that hand anymore. You might be able to hold a spoon though.”
It was a death sentence for a sword user.
The Life-Severing Sword looked down at his trembling hand with a blank look in his eyes. He looked as if he was looking at a hand that did not belong to him. He tried to stop the bleeding with pressure, but his hand wouldn’t stop shaking.
“You…You…!” He stood hunched over for a moment before he picked up his sword with his left hand. Dripping blood with a venomous look, he looked terrifying.
But Seo Jun-Ho looked at him with pity, not fear. He muttered with a tired voice. “…You came for my life first.” His opponent had no right to feel wronged. And there was no need for him to feel guilty. But as he looked at the Sword who looked like he had lost everything, his mouth became filled with a bitter taste.
Seo Jun-Ho swiftly dodged the flying sword and kicked the Sword’s knees. As his opponent lost his balance, Seo Jun-Ho landed a punch in his stomach.
“You fucking bastard!”
As the Sword fell, the Life-Severing Mage stepped in.
Anyone could see that the Life-Severing Sword had attacked first, but men were blind in their own causes.
A lance made of magic formed in the air and flew toward Seo Jun-Ho, aiming at his heart.
“You guys started it.”
Even in situations like these, Seo Jun-Ho always felt like he was the bad guy.
Seo Jun-Ho slapped aside the lance with the back of his hand while swinging with his other hand. The dagger stabbed perfectly into his opponent’s stomach.
With a gasp as his breathing shallowed, the Mage instinctively reached to pull the dagger out, but Seo Jun-Ho leaned toward his ear. “If you pull that out, you’ll die. Go to the hospital and you can live,” he said coldly.
The Mage stiffened and let go of the handle, swallowing hard. His previously gone logic had returned and he realized how bleak the situation was for him.
‘It hasn’t even been a month since he became a Player…..Why is the gap so big between us?’
A chill went down his spine. If Seo Jun-Ho hadn’t been merciful, they would all be dead.
The fight had lasted a little over 3 minutes, but the result was the complete opposite of what everyone had expected. The Three Reapers of Gangnam laid on the floor, groaning. But instead of being appalled, the crowd clapped and cheered.
“Wow, that was amazing!”
“He took out three Players whose levels were higher than him!”
“He didn’t even have to try. He’s just too good.”
“It seems that a great Player has come out of the Association!”
“That was so cool, Seo Jun-Ho!”
After the world had become like a game, this was one of the ways that common sense had twisted. Instead of being concerned about the injured, they only cheered and paid attention to the victor.
‘Yeah, I’m the only normal one. It has only gotten worse after 25 years.’
There were three ways to survive in this crazy world. Go crazy with the rest, suppress all your emotions, or always be in despair.
You couldn’t survive if you didn’t choose one.
“…Phew.” Seo Jun-Ho walked up to the Life-Severing Spear, who was the least injured and crouched down. “Will you come after me for revenge?” He asked casually as if he was asking if the Spear was hungry.
But the Spear understood instinctively what Seo Jun-Ho meant. If he said yes, he would kill them all right now. Trembling, he bowed his head. “N-no. We will not. W-we won’t even look at your shadow for the rest of our lives…”
“Really? Okay. Have a good life.” Satisfied with the answer, Seo Jun-Ho turned around and walked up to the bartender.
“Is the teleporter ready?”
“Lead the way.” The teleport was over in an instant, just like when he came. Seo Jun-Ho landed in a dirty alleyway in Insa-dong. He looked up at the narrow sky.
“…I miss my friends.”
His chest stung again today.
No matter how much and how long people resented him, he never got used to that feeling.